Mixathon48 brings hackathons’ competitive spirit to music world

Dulce Lopez/Staff

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Take the rushed ingenuity of software engineers hustling to debug some code at a hackathon, throw that onto the mixing boards at your nearest rave, and you’ve got Mixathon48, a competition billed as the world’s first online music production marathon. Commencing Friday at 12 p.m. PST, participating music producers and DJs will have 48 hours to produce a fully mastered, original composition that incorporates at least one of five pre-released sound files that will be released on their website upon launch.

Mixathon48 is the brainchild of UC Berkeley alumnus Nicholas Yiu – an idea he began envisioning during his own forays into the music production world. An undergraduate student in chemical engineering, Yiu found electronic music production as an avenue to further his passion for music creation, an interest he had otherwise abandoned upon his arrival on campus.

Seeking a change of pace during his last summer on campus, Yiu entered a series of online remix competitions with collaborator and friend Nickki Nguyen, a fellow UC Berkeley student and Yiu’s partner in conceiving Mixathon48. Neither won any of the competitions they entered. But that wasn’t the point, according to Yiu. Instead, he was struck by the glaring lack of hackathon-style contests within the world of music production.

Frequent exposure to the realm of competitive multi-day hackathons common within UC Berkeley and the tech-geared Bay Area at large sprouted Yiu’s idea of a similar concept transitioning to the dizzying, fluorescent glimmer of the electronic music scene.

“I’ve seen a couple of music competitions that are 48 hours long — to write a song, to take samples from other songs to make into your own — but nothing specifically for music production,” Yiu said in a phone interview with the Daily Californian.

Mixathon48 itself, however, does not fully carry the cutthroat environment of your typical hackathon. Contestants will have the option of allying with a partner to produce a track.

Yiu wants to push the confines of the electronic genre with Mixathon48, citing genre melding electronic producers Gramatik and Porter Robinson as personal favorites and influences on his own productions. Hoping to generate more experimentation within the electronic genre, Yiu views the 48-hour time limit imposed on participating Mixathoners as a way for them to expand their own creative bounds and espouse an innovative spirit through their submissions.

“Time limits are a really interesting way to bring the most out of people, and the hackathon format that has popped up in the bay has shown that this works out really well,” Yiu said.

Yiu has partnered with organizations and businesses spanning multiple industries, including virtual reality startup FullDive and Asian-American media outreach nonprofit Kollaboration, for promotional support and funding for the winning contestants’ prizes – which include $75 and a pair of headphones from the Berkeley-based company WearHaus for the community prize winner.

Ultimately, the biggest draw to Mixathon48 for young music producers is the prospect of striking their first big break – a goal that Yiu hopes to assist Mixathon48’s grand prize winner with attaining.

Yiu has partnered with Berlin-based production software company Ableton, offering a fully licensed copy of their famed Ableton Live mixing software as part of their grand prize package, along with $100.

He has also tapped burgeoning Dutch record label FireSpace Recordings for Mixathon48’s most substantial grand prize reward. The winning entrant’s track will be released as a one-off single on the electronic music label, complete with song royalties and promotional advertising, courtesy of FireSpace and Mixathon48.

“I’m really into artist outreach,” Yiu said. “I see Mixathon as an opportunity to discover new talent and help artists grow.”

With more than 100 signups from aspiring producers across the globe, Mixathon48 has seen tremendous success leading up to its kickoff.

“I hope Mixathon will become a regular event,” Yiu said. “Not always a 48-hour competition, but a series of different competitions that explore the different talent fields of many other musicians.”


Contact Joshua Bote at [email protected].